BEIJING (AP) — China's top general urged Japan to speed up the disposal of leftover World War II chemical weapons on Thursday, a day before President Barack Obama is to visit a Japanese city destroyed by a U.S. nuclear bomb.
Gen. Fan Changlong visited the Haerbaling site in the northeastern province of Jilin where an estimated 330,000 chemical bombs were buried by Japanese troops at the end of the war.
Fan "emphasized the need to urge Japan to earnestly meet its treaty obligations, boost investment, accelerate the pace of destruction work and at an early date return pure earth to the Chinese people," the Defense Ministry quoted him as saying.
At a monthly news conference, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun said Fan's visit was planned long in advance and was unrelated to Obama's trip to Hiroshima. Yang said Fan, who ranks just below President Xi Jinping on the Central Military Commission that controls the armed forces, hoped his visit would emphasize the importance of the work being carried out at Haerbaling, Yang said.
China has been at pains to counter attempts by some in Japan to use Obama's visit to portray their country as a war victim, saying Tokyo's role as aggressor should not be questioned. Japan's use of chemical and biological weapons in China is an especially sensitive subject, and Beijig says it has discovered abandoned chemical weapons at 90 sites throughout the country, Haerbaling being by far the biggest. The joint cleanup there is projected to be completed in 2022.
An editorial in the official China Daily newspaper Thursday accused Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida of seeking to remove the Hiroshima bombing from its wartime context in order to "portray itself as the victim of World War II rather than one of its major perpetrators."
"The misery the Japanese people suffered during the war, including that endured by the survivors of atomic bombings, was because of Japanese militarism," the paper said.